It wasn't the best launch Google could have had for it. While on the Buzz side of things users could sync with their Bloggers (like my own), Picasas and Google Reader shared items, integration wasn't what it should have been. Privacy was, and still is, a concern for some people, and Google could have gone to greater lengths to make the process easier to understand. It also doesn't help that they didn't launch with an actual iPhone app.
Despite all this, Google is still in a good position to become the best social networking tool on the web. Here's how they can do it:
- Integration across all services: Blogger, Youtube, even Calendar need to function better in concert with Buzz. My profile on Blogger and Youtube shouldn't be able to have different information than my Google Profile. These should all by synced, so I'm creating an identity for myself across the web. As for Youtube in particular, why isn't there already a link for Buzz under the "Share" tab under every video?
As for a service like Calendar, Google should go the distance and strive to make it a replacement for Facebook's events application.
- Advanced Privacy Settings: When Buzz first hit, people were more concerned with privacy than they were interested in the product. Google should offer Facebook-like privacy settings for every item posted on every product. I should be able to choose exactly who sees the videos I post/share on Youtube, the posts I make on my blog, every Buzz I make, and each individual detail on my profile. Sometimes the link that's appropriate for your college friends isn't appropriate for your Grandma.
I'm aware that Google offers various privacy options on each of their products, but they need to standardize them for the convenience of the user.
- Better user organization features: Currently, Buzz gives you the option of following your most frequently contacted chat and e-mail buddies, but that's not enough. Finding people that you know over the service should be easier, and your "friends" on their other products should be your "friends" in Buzz. Currently, the closest thing Google has to a friend system is the "contacts" list in Gmail. If Google was smart, they would enhance the "contacts" feature to add more Facebook-like functions - networks would be a good place to start.
If I have a friend on Youtube, shouldn't they also be among my contacts? Of course, how much they could see depends on the privacy features. Also, if a "friend" allows me to see their contact information on their profile, shouldn't that information sync with the "contact" I have for them?
- Rip off Facebook - Hard: While there might be links to my Blog, Youtube profile and Picasa albums on my Google Profile, why not provide thumbnails and excerpts on the side in the same fashion as Facebook? It also wouldn't hurt to make the Gmail inbox a central place for access to all Google products, just like you can access all your apps from the Facebook homepage
- Keep e-mail separate from it all: having a user profile that people can follow and contacts that you can communicate with easily is cool and all, but e-mails are private. Right now, you can follow somebody on Buzz without having their e-mail, which is good. It should stay that way for all services.
- Create a real iPhone App: if I see the Weinermobile driving through my campus, I should be able to Buzz the picture, my witty remark, my geotag and maybe even a hashtag immediately. This would be easier if I didn't have to use a lame link through Safari on the iPhone.
- Let people play with it: both Twitter and Facebook allow coders to make their own utilities that improve on the features of both respective websites. Hell, Twitter wouldn't have half of it's features today if it weren't for the users. Speaking of Twitter, why can't I search through public buzz yet?
In short, Google has to play nice with other people and even themselves, and start consolidating their empire of products more completely. If they do it, the internet will be a more convenient place than ever.